Last week we wrote about being lectured by technology, with the general feeling that there is nothing worse than having technology talk down to you. We were wrong. There is something worse. It is having technology stymie your progress, or, even worse, argue with you about what you know to be right.
While we have been familiar for quite some time with computers that suddenly become sluggish and unresponsive, or GPS systems that occasionally try to lead you off a cliff, it is a newer generation of technology that seems to be the most frustrating when it chooses to challenge your position as overlord of your domain. I am speaking, of course, about the plethora of devices that understand your voice, and have developed the ability to talk to you. Or more accurately, talk back to you or simply respond with non-sensical garbage that has nothing to do with your original instructions.
I thought about this yesterday, on my commute home from the office. Wanting to change the music playing via Bluetooth, I hit the button that would allow me to communicate with that ubiquitous virtual assistant, Siri. I told her, “Play Supertramp” (showing my age here). After a brief moment, she responded by saying, “I can’t find any super tramp listed in your contacts.” I thought, “I certainly hope not. I’m a happily married man.”
This, of course, is not the first time Siri has attempted to interject angst in my marriage. We really got off on the wrong foot years ago, the day I acquired my first iPhone. That evening, as we went to bed, I kissed my wife goodnight, then rolled over and told Siri goodnight.
From that point on my wife only refers to her as “that bitch”.
I wrote about those early problems back in 2013. As I explained then:
Take my recent vacation to San Diego. My wife and I spent a week there, on a trip that happened to coincide with our 16th wedding anniversary (although married for 16 years, my wife insists on telling everyone that we have been together for 24 years, as she wants credit for “time served”). On the evening of our actual anniversary, we decided we wanted Mexican food, so I put the task of finding the perfect place to Siri.
True to form, Siri found several seemingly respectable locations near us, and listed them in the order of their rankings. I selected the top-rated restaurant, and had Siri plot the coordinates for our commute. As we wound our way around the airport in San Diego (the only way to get anywhere in San Diego is around the airport), I noticed that the condition of the neighborhood seemed to be declining the further we progressed. As we neared our destination, I wondered aloud how such a highly rated restaurant could survive in this part of town. And suddenly, we were upon it.
As my wife and I slowly rolled to a stop in the street in front of our selected anniversary night location, we both sat in stunned silence. To call this place a restaurant would be overreaching. To call it a taco shack would have been a stretch. The only thing this place was missing was axles. The restaurant Siri had selected for us, the highest rated one she could find, was a tiny red and white stucco hovel with a dilapidated aluminum canopy, picnic tables and a variety of homeless people wandering around outside.
The silence was broken by Siri cheerfully announcing, “You have arrived at your destination”. I am not sure, but at this point I thought I heard my iPhone laughing.
I actually spend an inordinate amount of time arguing with Siri when it comes to finding music on my phone. A request for ELO sometimes produces a song by Evanescence. Asking for Enya sometimes gets me a collection of songs from the Annie Lennox alum “Diva.” And for some reason, Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” plays a lot on a random rotation. I have a very wide taste in music, from classical to country, and everything in between except Rap. That’s a good thing since I’m pretty sure Siri would use Rap against me quite often.
Still, Siri has nothing on the other virtual assistant in my life, Alexa. Being a techie geek nerd I use a number of the Amazon Echo devices to control lights, thermostats, music, and other functions at my house. Sometimes she has misunderstandings similar to those that Siri experiences, but she has one trait that is far worse. Lately, she has started a trend of offering useful advice after completing a task. Sometimes it seems the dumbass just won’t shut up.
What is it about technology that automatically assumes it knows everything? That simply just annoys those of us in this world who do know everything.
Of course, she is not the only thing that doesn’t know when to be quiet. The power went off at our house for several hours a few nights ago. It came back on at 5:30 AM, and every electronic device in the house seemed to herald the great awakening. Multiple programmable switches, controllers, sensors; even the oven and refrigerator, all started beeping and tweeting as their circuits came back to life. My house sounded like an arcade. Fan lights on some remotes came on at full power. And multiple Amazon Echo’s around the house started telling us they were unable to connect to the internet. It seems my router – the one device they are all dependent on – is always the last to wake up at these events.
Technology can in fact be very stressful. It’s a good thing I am in the workers’ compensation industry, where the stressors by comparison are relatively low. And the arguments are far less frequent than those that occur when dealing with technology.